Margaret Geerts didn’t have the common symptoms. There was no pain in her chest, no “classic warning signs”, before suffering a heart attack three months after her 40th birthday.
It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Marg didn’t feel quite right at work that day. She had cold sweats and a strange numbness in both arms.“I thought I had the flu,” recalls Marg. She was dizzy, nauseous, and generally felt unwell. So she did like anyone would have who thought they were coming down with something; went home, had a ginger ale and went to bed. The weekend went on without incident.
But when Monday morning came, Marg still didn’t feel quite like herself. “For some reason my morning coffee didn’t taste quite right,” she recounts, “I thought I must have been getting sick so I decided to go back to bed.” But even upstairs in bed she was restless. “I was lightheaded and couldn’t get comfortable. I went from lying down to standing, to sitting repeatedly.”
Unable to settle, she remembers asking her husband for a ginger ale to help calm the nausea. She doesn’t remember anything after that.
Marg was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s where she was immediately assessed by the on-call cardiologist, transferred up to the ICU and put into a medically induced coma for three days. She only remembers bits and pieces of the recovery that followed. An angiogram diagnosed Marg with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) which means there was a sudden tear in the blood vessel in her heart.
While little is still known about the causes of SCAD, what is known about Marg’s ordeal with the disease is that she is fortunate. Fortunate her husband was still home that morning to find her. Fortunate the firefighters were trained in CPR and worked quickly to revive her. Fortunate that St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Centre was so close to diagnose and treat her. Ultimately fortunate that there was no long term damage to her brain or her heart.
“I owe a lot to St. Mary’s – to the physicians and staff who saved my life.” says Marg, “People don’t realize how lucky we are to have such a facility so close. I am lucky. And incredibly grateful.”
St. Mary’s General Hospital’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre has a catchment area of nearly 1 million people and treats patients in communities stretching from Tobermory to Brant County, the shores of Lake Huron to Wellington County. “Annually our cardiac physicians perform over 5000 cardiac procedures in the catheterization lab, almost 900 cardiac surgeries, and close to 600 device implants.” says Dr. McNamara, Chief of Cardiovascular Services at St. Mary’s, “Thanks to the community’s support, we will soon begin to treat cardiac patients with electrical and rhythm issues as well.” A program which has nearly achieved its fundraising requirement and is currently scheduled to open in 2018.
“We do great things at St. Mary’s.” states Dr. McNamara, “Those procedures are more than just numbers. They translate into real, meaningful changes for families and people – our neighbours. It’s the difference between a kid having his dad for the next 25 years or a couple growing old together. That is what community support enables. It helps save lives.”